Weapons of Mass Disruption: reclaiming political force in modern conspiracy films (and other narratives)
TRACY MATHEWSON is an award-winning writer/director with an MA in Screenwriting from City University London. Recent projects include filming a portrait-painting robot and creating films in isolation with artists she has never met. She is currently undertaking her PhD in Film by Creative Practice at the University of York.
Mainstream conspiracy film, where it once was a record of triumph against corruption and abuse of power or a call to arms against rising public fears, is now drowned out by a conspiracy culture of paranoia, “post-truth”, and partisan hostility which has infiltrated our politics, entertainment, and public spheres. Exhausted after decades of self-centered privatisation and enfeebled by growing disillusionment with its traditional pillars of justice, the conspiracy genre is at risk of losing the political force it once possessed. I present a structured examination of three core elements (The Behemoth, Mechanisms for Justice, and The Protagonist) and posit that the lack of political force observed in mainstream conspiracy films since the early 2000s is largely due to a disconnect where (1) modern behemothic presences have yet to be addressed, (2) altruistic motivations of protagonists no longer align with modern cynicism, and (3) that traditional mechanisms for justice are still being applied when they have proven impotent or compromised in real life. I contextualise and update these three elements within our current conspiracy culture, examine their representation in modern conspiracy films, and identify new approaches for the genre to remain relevant in the 21st century.